IBM Launches Blockchain Project to Boost Sustainability of Groundwater Consumption

IBM, the world’s ninth-largest information technology company, has teamed up with Portland-based conservation non-profit Freshwater Trust and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider SweetSense to pilot a blockchain project developed in an effort to track and monitor groundwater consumption California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

As detailed in a press release published February 8, the impetus behind the project is to demonstrate the ability of the cloud-based IBM Blockchain Platform in providing an equally accurate, transparent, and real-time measurements of groundwater consumption. Aside from blockchain technology’s ability to provide a tamper-proof, immutable record of usage numbers, the release also further outlined a number of benefits, particularly in sustaining pumping levels through groundwater use shares trading.

According to California-based nonprofit organization the Water Education Foundation, the Delta’s prevailing pumping level issues has largely led to the significant population decline of Delta smelts, an indigenous fish species found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Now flagged as an endangered species, the Delta smelt’s massive population deflation has since resulted in a slew of lawsuits lodged against the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009.

In an effort to protect the species against excessive pumping levels, the project is seeking to tokenize farmers’ groundwater shares by using smart contracts, allowing farmers to sell their shares to other farmers. Explaining the initiative, IBM further elaborated in the release that “[i]ndividual users who require groundwater amounts beyond their share cap will be able to ‘purchase’ groundwater shares from users who do not require all of their supply at a market-regulated rate.”

Citing two examples the tech titan went on stating:

“A strawberry farmer is planning to take the season off to prepare for an organic crop the following harvest. The farmer can trade or sell her water credits on the blockchain to another farmer. Due to a particularly dry season a winery realizes it will need additional ground water to avoid losing the vintage. The vintner can purchase additional water shares, without negatively impacting the aquifer.”

As it stands, over 64 percent of America’s groundwater is used for growing crops, while 45 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown in Sacramento-San Joaquin relies on the Delta River. According to the release, the blockchain project aims to aggregate and provide data for a crucial resource in both state and nationwide.

Prior to the IBM’s collaboration with SweetSense and Freshwater Trust, the tech giant has also piloted other blockchain initiatives in the last two months, among which includes two separate blockchain projects involving Ford, LG, and MineHub, announced in January in an effort to equally boost the mining industry’s efficiency and transparency. That same month, IBM has also partnered with PNC Bank, Aetna, Anthem, and Health Care Service Corp., to develop a highly secured shared blockchain network.